Thursday, September 22, 2011

“The Stomping Mare”: Hermine Braunsteiner, Nazi Serial Killer - 1945

WIKIPEDIA EXCERPT: Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan (July 16, 1919 – April 19, 1999) was a female camp guard and the first Nazi war criminal to be extradited from the United States.

She was born in Vienna, the youngest child in a strictly observant Roman Catholic working class family. Her father Friedrich Braunsteiner was a chauffer for a brewery and/or a butcher. Hermine lacked the means to fulfill her aspiration to become a nurse, and worked as a maid. From 1937 to 1938 she worked in England for an American engineer’s household.

In 1938 the Anschluss made her a German citizen, and she returned to Vienna. Late that year she moved and found work at the Heinkel aircraft works in Berlin.

At the urging of her landlord, she applied for a better paying job with better working conditions, supervising prisoners, quadrupling her income in time. She began her training on August 15, 1939, as an Aufseherin under Maria Mandel at Ravensbrück concentration camp. After some years a disagreement with Mandel led Braunsteiner to request a transfer.

On October 16, 1942, she took up her duties in the apparel factory at Majdanek, located near Lublin, Poland. It was both a labour camp (Arbeitslager and an extermination camp (Vernichtungslager). She was promoted to assistant wardress in January 1943 under Oberaufseherin Elsa Erich along with five other women.

Her abuses took many forms in the camp. She involved herself in “selections” of women and children to be sent to the gas chambers and whipped several women to death. Working alongside other female guards such as Elsa Ehrich, Hildegard Lächert, Marta Ulrich, Alice Orlowski, Charlotte Karla Mayer-Woellert, Erna Wallisch and Elisabeth Knoblich, Braunsteiner was infamous for her wild rages and tantrums. According to one witness at her later trial in Dusseldorf, she “seized children by their hair and threw them on trucks heading to the gas chambers.” Other survivors testified how she killed women by stomping on them with her steel-studded jackboots, earning her the nickname “The Stomping Mare” (In Polish “Kobyła”, in German “Stute von Majdanek”)

She received the War Merit Cross, 2nd class, in 1943, for her work.

In January 1944, Hermine was ordered back to Ravensbrück as Majdanek began evacuations. There she was promoted to supervising wardress at the Genthin subcamp of Ravensbrück, located outside Berlin. Witnesses say that she abused many of the prisoners with a special whip she carried.

On May 7, 1945, Hermine Braunsteiner fled the camp ahead of the Soviet Red Army. She then returned to Vienna, but soon left, complaining that there was not enough food there. The Austrian police arrested her and turned her over to the British military occupation authorities; she remained incarcerated from May 6, 1946, until April 18, 1947. A court in Graz, Austria convicted her of torture, maltreatment of prisoners and crimes against humanity and against human dignity at Ravensbrück (not Majdanek), then sentenced her to serve three years, beginning April 7, 1948; she was released early in April 1950. An Austrian civil court subsequently granted her amnesty from further prosecution there. She worked at low level jobs in hotels and restaurants until emigrating.

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